Australian young people learning to push back against online bullies

Australian children and young people are learning how to counter negative online experiences and are prepared to stand up to cyberbullies, early insights from research into young people’s online experiences by the eSafety Commissioner has shown.

In a keynote speech today at the World Anti-Bullying Forum (WABF) in Stockholm, Sweden, eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant revealed new data showing more young Australians are feeling empowered to take control of their online experiences.

eSafety asked 3,600 young Australians aged 8-17 years-old about their digital participation and experiences of online harms, to find more young people said they took steps to push back against online bullies, compared to four years ago.

Ms Inman Grant said that an important and heartening finding in the research was that 64 per cent of young people who have experienced negative online behaviour are taking proactive measures to block or unfriend people who had bullied them online, a significant increase on 46 per cent of young people in 2017.

“Face-to-face bullying is still more prevalent than cyberbullying in Australia, despite the proliferation of cyberbullying in the face of COVID-19,” Ms Inman Grant told the WABF audience.

“When we asked young Australians about their experiences online, 55 per cent told us they had been treated in a hurtful or nasty way face-to-face in the past 12 months.

“Forty-five per cent told us they had been treated in a hurtful or nasty way online. While more than half had also witnessed this happening to someone else.

“Sixty per cent of teenagers are now telling us they would tell a friend about online bullying, compared to just 28 per cent back in 2017.

“I don’t need to tell you that young people also reported significant emotional distress from negative online behaviour.

“And as these stats converge - we are reminded of the dissolving distinction between the online and offline worlds. For young people in particular – this is simply, their life.”

Ms Inman Grant said the data supported the importance of government-backed reporting schemes are to the health and wellbeing of young people long term.

eSafety research also highlights the active role that parents, and carers have in keeping kids safer online.

“Where before, families might have watched TV together, or kicked the footy, now they are co-playing and co-learning in digital spaces.

“Our 2019 ‘Start the chat’ campaign encouraged parents to start the conversation about online safety – as soon as their children have access to a digital device. 

“We can now see children and parents are developing more confidence to speak about what happens online. The culture is changing, and we are overcoming some of the stigma attached to speaking up,” Ms Inman Grant said.

eSafety has a comprehensive range of best-practice resources and guides for children, young people, parents and carers to assist with online safety issues, including cyberbullying.

As part of the revamped Online Safety Act, Australia’s world-first cyberbullying scheme is set to be significantly expanded in 2022 to provide protection for children being bullied in online games and on private messaging platforms.

eSafety’s current cyberbullying scheme, which is still the only one of its kind in the world, has been protecting Australian children from bullying on social media platforms for the past six years.

See the video of the eSafety Commissioner's keynote speech.

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